3 Myths About (The DPR)Korea

Essay By Aaron Benjamin

This article will go through and dismantle three of the most common anti-DPRK arguments I see—everyone is starving, North Korea is a fascist monarchy, and it’s not real socialism—These myths are held to be true by both anti-communists (except for the last one) and surprisingly some communists. Usually first world communists like libertarian socialists and anarchists.

The reason why I think many communists dislike the DPRK is because it has a plethora of lies surrounding its actions and existence, so therefore attempting to defend it without enough resources to do so will only make you look silly. So instead of actually doing research, these communists would rather go along with the commonly spread lies of the  DPRK by the west.

Before they spew a particular lie they usually open with “I’m not saying North Korea is as bad as the west says it is… but [insert baseless western claim here]”. Doesn’t it sound familiar? Sort of mirroring the type of thing a racist would do before saying something racist? “I’m not racist… but!”. The point here is that the communists who do sloppily regurgitate western lies are only contributing to an anti-communist mentality and consciousness. Just as my example of the racist, even though he says he’s totally not a racist, he still does contribute to reinforcing a racist mentality and consciousness.

Instead of contributing to the right-wing and liberal echo chamber of anti-communist lies, I think all socialists should embrace the DPRK as an example of existing socialism and how it can still prosper even under absolutely enormous pressure from western powers. It may not be a perfect socialism. As everything has it’s problems and shortcomings, including the DPRK, but nonetheless, it is still socialism. Lastly, I think the libertarian socialist and Trotskyite logic of “if we keep telling the workers how terrible existing socialism is/was then maybe they’ll join the struggle to build socialism!” Needs to stop, it’s blatantly counter-revolutionary and it doesn’t help our case. So without further ado, let us begin.

1.) Everyone is Starving To Death

By far the most common lie about the DPRK, probably because it can be used as a quick one-liner, is that everyone is starving, which contradicts some lies from the same people who also claim they’re forced to eat soil and grass (Hold your laughter!)[6]. So which is it? Are they all starving or are they forced to eat grass? The answer, as I will demonstrate, is neither.

Usually, numbers vary drastically on how many people are supposedly starving (wide range is probably due to the fact that it’s made up). But using statistical data and common sense, we can prove that probably no one is starving in North Korea.

Before we start, I will acknowledge that there was a famine in North Korea, emphasis on ‘was’. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, since North Korea relied on a lot of food and general aid from other socialist nations due to the fact that only 21% of their land is arable and only 1.9 are permanent crops, they experienced a sudden and unexpected drop in imports they used to feed the people. [7][8]

It’s not very honest nor smart to blame the leader of the country or the system from the famine if it was caused by a mix of bad geography and unexpected economic conditions. The estimate concerning the death toll of this famine is around 3 million between 1994-98. [9] Why then isn’t that shown in the population census at all? I’m aware of the birth rate, death rate, population growth and unnatural death stats used to determine exactly how many people died using a census, but this was supposedly 3 million people during a 4 year period in a country of 22 million at the time so you would expect at least a small dent! But as this graph shows, there is absolutely no disruption in the population during 1994-98.

north-korea-population

It doesn’t take a scientist or a team of intellectual demi-god philosophers to debunk this. It takes common sense and logic.

People still claim North Korea is still starving today, and to that I say “really?!” That claim is completely baseless and founded on nothing. Entirely made up.

Since North Korea stopped publishing in detail economic statistics about 50 years ago, it’s difficult to determine exactly how much food there is in North Korea and if it is enough to feed the Nation. But it is safe to say, using what we do know, that North Korea is not starving. [10]. If you still doubt it, then again, just try to use your brain and apply some logic. Everyone in North Korea has not been perpetually starving since 1948. You can even speak to North Koreans online and ask them or ask people that have visited the country.

2.) North Korea is a Fascist Monarchy

This claim comes from two points of ignorance.

  1. You don’t understand how North Korea works.
  2. You don’t know what fascism is.

If we take a quick trip to a dictionary (Using a dictionary for simplicity) we’ll see  that fascism is “An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization”.[1] Now instantly we can see that North Korea is not fascist. Unless you’re just completely and utterly ignorant of the internal relations of the DPRK.

Another quote to describe fascism, from Mussolini himself, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

Now that we’ve established what fascism is, in the most basic sense of the word, we can examine if North Korea follows this criteria.

Does North Korea unify the state with corporations? No. Under fascism, corporate interests, being maximization of profit, are directly merged with the state. Private ownership, and therefore corporations, do not exist in the DPRK so therefore they cannot be economically fascist. We will get into how the North Korean economy actually works in the next section so for now we’ll skip over that.

What about socially? Fascism views the nation, including its state as a single bound entity. The organic theory of the state. Which is rather self explanatory, they view the state as an organism (don’t laugh!)[2][3]. On top of that, they seek to fix all problems by having a national rebirth in which race and the nation is prioritized above all else. [4]

This is almost the opposite of what North Korea does. In the DPRK, it being a country founded on Marxism-Leninism, they view the state as only a tool wielded by one class over another that will eventually wither away given that internal and external class antagonisms cease to exist. The workers are the state in North Korea, it is a proletarian state.

North Korea emphasizes progress and socialist culture. Fascism seeks to go backwards in its oppressive radical traditionalism, manifesting in racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic policies. North Korea, on the other hand, seeks to go forward, and advance socially in accordance with its economic base. Women are treated equally and are encouraged to work alongside men, and they’re paid the same as men would for a specific job.[5] If North Korea was fascist, they would be subsidizing the woman to stay at home and abide by “traditional female gender roles”.

Many people would point to the nationalism of North Korea and say they’re fascist because of it. But nationalism is only an idea and it has 2 distinct and opposite ways in which it manifests. First world nationalism, which is the nationalism usually associated with fascism, manifests itself in extreme imperialism, racism and xenophobia. Third world nationalism, on the other hand, manifests itself in anti-imperialist struggle. North Korea is nationalistic not because they hate all non-Koreans, but because they wish to preserve their sovereignty from western imperialism. Nationalism is not inherently bad, it’s how that nationalism manifests itself.

Now unto the monarchy part of the claim

You can read my other article on the DPRK to see exactly how the state functions, but basically, the leader of North Korea is elected via secret ballot. Though the reason the leaders that have been elected are all descendants of the founder, Kim Il-Sung, is because of a massive cult of personality around the family which I will call them out on, though also, this cult of personality could be a byproduct of asian culture. Westerns tend to value what they think is freedom and individualism but in eastern Asia, the people tend to value honor and loyalty, as an article on east asian culture says;

In Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam or Singapore, Confucianism stresses duty, sincerity, loyalty, honour, filial piety, respect. Through maintaining harmonious relations as individuals, society itself becomes stable. [13]

This is generally speaking, the East Asian mentality when it comes to leadership. And this mentality more than likely contributed to the facilitating of the cult of personality. But regardless, I’ll still criticize, instead of trying to deter it, like Cuba actively does, North Korea simply embraces it in an un-marxist manner. In this aspect, North Korea strays from Marxism.

So to conclude; North Korea is not fascist economically, not even close. Nor is it fascist socially, it treats social issues in the opposite way a fascist state would. It is not a monarchy, and all claims of such are absolutely baseless on every level. North Korea is a socialist democratic dictatorship (As in, it is democratic for the working class but a dictatorship to all who are not workers. Hence, a proletarian dictatorship) that upholds the will of the people.

3.) North Korea isn’t Socialist

This claim comes from people who either don’t know what socialism is in the marxist sense of the word, or people who are too lazy to research the North Korean economy.

Using a dictionary again for simplicity, because I don’t want this section to be 20 pages of semantics; Socialism is “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods” [11]

It’s important to also remember that socialism is not only an economic system, but the transition period in between capitalism and communism in which the whole of society and consciousness is restructured to put the workers in control and eventually read full communism.

Following this criteria, can we say that North Korea is socialist? After this analysis you can decide for yourself, but to me, the answer is yes.

Workers in North Korea exert more power on local level, through local people’s assemblies, than Americans do in their country, as I’ve previously demonstrated in my last article on the DPRK. I will quote from it.

The most local organs of the state are the Local People’s Assemblies, which are provincial, municipal, and county level sovereign power organs for dealing with small scale economic management, local issues, and tailoring state policies to the conditions of that area. Accompanying the Local People’s Assemblies are the Local People’s Committees which take action when the Local People’s assemblies are in recess and they carry out administrative functions to put policies in practice.

The Local People’s assemblies are made up of elected deputies which serve 4 year terms and can be recalled if they do not uphold the will of the people. The members of the Local People’s Assemblies elect their chairman.

The Functions of the Local People’s Assemblies are as follows; To deliberate on and approve reports on local plans for the development of the national economy and their implementation, to deliberate on and approve reports on the budget and its implementation, adopting measures to exercise state laws in the area concerned, to elect or recall the chairman, vice chairman or secretary of the People’s committees at corresponding levels, to elect or recall judges of a court and people’s assessors, to abolish unwarranted decisions and directions adopted by a people’s committee and lower people’s assemblies.

The Local People’s Assemblies have two types of meetings; a regular assembly or an extraordinary assembly. Regular assemblies are brought together once or twice a year by a Local People’s Committee of a corresponding level. Extraordinary assemblies are held when the People’s Committee deems it necessary to do so and a minimum of one -third of the deputies must show at the Extraordinary assemblies. When assemblies are held and issues are raised, they are decided by a two-thirds majority vote.

Local People’s Committees are made up of the chairman, vice chairman, secretaries and members — the three former are elected by the Local People’s Assemblies and the term for these positions are 4 years.

The functions of the Local People’s Committees are as follows; To organize assembly meetings, To organize local elections, to do work with the deputies of the assemblies, To exercise laws,

decisions and directions of the people’s assembly at the corresponding level, and all state organs higher than itself, To organize and exercise will administrative work in their respective areas, to draft a local plan for the development of the national economy and adopt measures to exercise it, create a local budget and adopt measures to put it into effect, adopt measures to protect maintain order, protect the property of social cooperative organizations, the state and to safeguard the rights of the people, to do inspection, to guide and to abolish unwarranted decisions of lower people’s assemblies.

We’ve just scratched the surface of the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and if you hadn’t noticed by now, it is not a dictatorship by any means. Unless, of course, Kim Jong-Un just holds all of these positions and makes every single decision, the thousands that there are, local and national and personally sees to it that every single of the 25 million DPRK citizens are doing what their told… Unfortunately there are some people that would actually believe the satire I just did over the reality of the matter.

I know people having local power does not automatically make it socialist, but I was showing that people do in fact have local power and control over their government.

I, admittedly, am not the best at describing economic systems in detail in specific countries. Nor do I want to miss out on any essential details, so here is a lengthy, but nonetheless necessary, quote from an article explaining North Korean socialism in a much better way than I could articulate.

Korean socialist construction reorganized industrial production by and in the interests of the formerly dispossessed Korean proletariat. Drawing on the mass line – the Marxist-Leninist organizing method that “is both the cause and effect of the politicization and involvement of the masses in the process of economic development and socialist construction” – the WPK implemented the Daean work system in December 1961. In contrast to the past system, in which managers were appointed to oversee a workplace unilaterally by a single party member, “The Part factory committee assumes the highest authority at the level of the enterprise” in the Daean work system. Brun further describes this system, and I will quote her at length:

“Ways of solving questions affecting production and workers’ activities, as well as methods of carrying out decisions, are arrived at through collective discussions within the factory committee, whose members are elected by the factory’s Party members. To be effective this committee has to be relatively small, its precise numbers depending on the size of the enterprise. At the Daean Electrical Plant, with a labor force of 5,000, the Party factory committee is made up of 35 members who meet once or twice a month, while the 9 members of the executive board keep in continuous contact. Sixty percent of its members are production workers, with the remainder representing a cross-section of all factory activities, including functionaries, managers, deputy-managers, engineers, technicians, women’s league representatives, youth league members, trade union members, and office employees. Its composition thus gives it access to all socioeconomic aspects of the enterprise and the lives of its worker.

This committee has become what is called the ‘steering wheel’ of the industrial unit, conducting ideological education and mobilizing the workers to implement collective decisions and to fulfill the production target. Through its connection to the Party it has a clear picture of overall policies and aims as well as the exact function of individual enterprise in the national context. In other words, this setup ensures that politics are given priority.”

As this quote (within a quote. And yes, now you can laugh.) demonstrates, workers democratically controlled their economy and workplaces. He continues;

This model of socialist organization represents the highest commitment to workers democracy. Workers have input and supremacy in production and interact dialectically with the state to plan and carry out collectivist production on behalf of the whole Korean people.

The way socialism manifests itself in North Korea is, as mentioned above if you were wondering what that word means, the Daean Work System. I recommend everyone read the 14th citation as it explains it in detail. [14]

With all that said. I think we can conclude North Korea is socialist. Means of production are controlled by the workers democratically and overall, it appears that the North Korean people are in fact the masters of their own society.

Conclusion

The DPRK is a genuine democratic socialist state that incorporates freedom and democracy at every level it can. It should not be slandered by socialists, it should be openly and proudly supported for how good it really is. Remember that criticism is key to development, so while I and many of my readers may support the DPRK it’s always necessary to make criticisms wherever possible. But these criticisms must be founded in reality. Anti-communist criticism, including criticism from anarchists, leftcoms and libertarian socialists, are not founded in reality and therefore shouldn’t be taken seriously. Solidarity with the workers of Korea!

Citations

[1] Google search of “Fascism definition”

[2] http://www.preservearticles.com/201106238453/the-organic-theory-of-the-state-with-special-reference-to-herbert-spencer.html

[3] Oliver Zimmer, Nationalism in Europe, 1890–1940 (London, Palgrave, 2003), chapter 4, pp. 80–107.

[4] “Fascism”. Encyclopædia Britannica. 8 January 2008.

[5] https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Peoples_Republic_of_Korea_1998.pdf?lang=en

[6] http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/16/world/asia/north-korea-un-report/

[7] http://countrystudies.us/north-korea/54.htm

[8] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kn.html

[9] https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/12/how-kim-jong-il-starved-north-korea/250244/

[10] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/03/n-korea-myth-starvation-2014319124439924471.html?utm=from_old_mobile

[11] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/socialism

[12] https://return2source.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/korea-resilient-socialism-in-democratic-korea/

[13] http://www.easypassinternational.eu/face-loyalty-honor-and-rite-in-east-asia/

[14] https://www.reddit.com/r/communism/comments/2kwid3/a_model_of_democratic_and_participatory_socialist/

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2 thoughts on “3 Myths About (The DPR)Korea

  1. Where can I talk to people from North Korea online? You mentioned this in your article, and I find it really interesting.

    Like

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